Live Review: Ed Sheeran, Rudimental, Passenger, Foy Vance

7 December 2015 | 3:11 pm | Ching Pei Khoo

"That he manages to balance the special effects without losing the intimate appeal of his performance is a rare and glorious treat."

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The steamy air is heavy with perspiration and expectations for a spectacular onstage party with four individually dynamic performers.

Foy Vance and Passenger are given unusually brief, blink-and-you'll-miss-'em on air time today. In low-key contrast to their recent receptions, both performers almost rush through their popular chart-topping singles before they exit. 

The energy seriously amps up when drum'n'bass band Rudimental's ten-member ensemble bounce on stage, and thankfully keep bouncing for close to 40 minutes. Sexy, brassy, high octane and infectiously rhythmic, the band's fast-paced vocalists unleash their lungs to an open air venue with relish. Surprisingly, they perform their latest single Lay It All On Me — a track which originally featured Ed Sheeran as a guest vocalist on the album. Perhaps they will reprise it again in the main act?

A higher, glossier dais is erected on stage before the diminutive Sheeran bounds up, just one man, his guitar, and Chewie Monsta — his loop effects pedal. It sounds like the tools of a performer more suited to the neighbourhood pub, but Sheeran gleefully proves otherwise. He effortlessly commands AAMI Park with an impressive vocal range and technical prowess. Deftly layering guitar slaps, back-up harmonies and feverish strumming — particularly in Bloodstream and I See Fire — his performance never suffers any midway fatigue. The bitter-laced Don't gets half the stadium on their feet and swaying. The largely female audience with toddlers and grandparents in tow sing happily along, word perfect and polished.

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Four tall, vertical screens looming behind Sheeran project a colour-filled, kinetic montage of real-time visuals against pre-recorded images to further fuel his onstage presence. Little yellow figures dance around his lips as he sings Lego House, and hand-sketched animations of a romantic couple waltz behind him in One.

Photograph appears early — without any cutesy videos of baby Sheeran, alas — and he teases us with the first verse to Elvis' Can't Help Falling In Love before leading into Thinking Out Loud. He confidently segues his hip hop track Take It Back with Stevie Wonder's Superstition and Nina Simone's Feeling Good. He may not be the next Eminem, but his rapping is commendable in the dizzying encore You Need Me, I Don't Need You mash-up, and the catchy R&B collaboration with Pharrell Williams, Sing.  

Sadly, none of the supporting acts come midway through Sheeran's performance for a guest song or two, not even the highly anticipated jamming session with Rudimental. It remains a puzzle. And we know it's a stretch, but we still hold hopes that Tay Tay may slip on stage and croon their famous duet Everything Has Changed. If only.

Nevertheless, with an impressive audiovisual team behind him, Sheeran's current tour is markedly elevated to the echelons of the big league gigs. That he manages to balance the special effects without losing the intimate appeal of his performance is a rare and glorious treat.